The Philadelphia Flyers are swirling further out of a playoff spot every day they step on the ice. With every fleeting footstep in the clunky waddle of skates on a padded surface, the likelihood of postseason hockey ending up at Wells Fargo Arena is being washed out by mediocre play and horrific goaltending.
It’s not a good time. We’re not having a good time.
This kind of play and sports disappointment has led every single Flyers fan down a path of wondering what they do at the upcoming trade deadline on Monday. Do they sell everything that’s not virtually bolted down to the floor by ways of massive contracts? Or, maybe they stand pat and just chalk up this season as something completely random, therefore keeping this core together. No one really knows the answer until the clock ticks its echoing hollow chime at three o’clock.
While we’re waiting to cement our idea of what this Flyers team is going to look like for the remainder of this horrible season, one that makes me want to self-flash a neuralyzer from Men In Black immediately after the final whistle, let’s think of some trades.
One name that simply won’t go away, considering how the team is and its predictable future, is Nolan Patrick.
The former second overall pick is only 22 years old, but his 183 career NHL games has left everyone wanting a little bit more. Expectations have been lowered, and he’s certainly a serviceable NHL forward, but now might be the time to strike a deal with a franchise that believes they can unlock a different, previously expected, style and ability.
Considering that Philadelphia might lose him for nothing in the expansion draft if they acquire that long-rumored top-four defenseman before the Seattle Kraken select their first team, it might make sense to move on. As Elliotte Friedman mentioned on his 31 Thoughts podcast, the Flyers have been looking for that type of player and would therefore move to an eight-skater method of protection, instead of the seven forwards and three defensemen structure that has been predicted. With Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim and Phillippe Myers already existing, the fourth defender would add a wrinkle into that plan; leading to Patrick being exposed.
That’s why it might make sense to include him in any deal for a defender, or just move on and try and recoup some assets for the post-hype prospect.
We see these type of trades all the time. Former top draft picks get more opportunities to find their potential than your regular young skater and different franchises and fanbases want to get those dudes just to see what happens. It all depends on the cost though. If the Flyers can take advantage of Patrick still being in that post-hype prospect mode and get more than its warranted for a player that has shown to be a solid third-line type of forward, then do it.
Of course it’s all hypothetical and I have no idea what the value is of a player around the league. I do not, unfortunately, have a secret wiretap into all 31 phones of the league’s general managers, laughing at every conversation Jim Benning has. Instead I just take into account what has happened in recent memory around the league and know that some front offices love to take second chances on former top prospects. As boring as it is, the answer to whether the Flyers should set Patrick free and let him explore the top-six with another organization, is dependent on the return.
As it is with every single trade, if it makes sense for Philadelphia, why not take advantage of his draft pick reputation and cash in early? Hanging on to him, believing in his potential too much yourself, can lead you down a path of tweener possibility and eventual free agency that might see him get lucky later on.
The other side of this hockey coin is, that Patrick is most valuable to a Flyers franchise that can use any injection of youth they can. With Jakub Voracek, James van Reimsdyk, Kevin Hayes, and Claude Giroux hanging around for the foreseeable future, as well as Travis Konency already cashing in as the next wave of forwards, this team can use some cheap dudes.
As a pending restricted free agent, it’s easy to see that Patrick will not get a massive bump in pay this summer. Most likely another one-year extension to see what he can do; to get a useful middle-six forward for cheap is what a successful team has to do with a hard cap ceiling, especially when it is not going to be increasing anytime soon. This only works out if he’s able to perform above his pay grade and other useful similarly-talented players like Tanner Laczynski and Wade Allison coming through Lehigh Valley only puts more pressure on the Brandon, Manitoba native to stay in the lineup.
It all depends where the Flyers and Chuck Fletcher wants to go from here. They can either go all-in and try to pry a solid young defender from a team—hello Vince Dunn—that can contribute more than Patrick can, or keep him around as a depth player that can be entered in the top-six in case of future absences.
There are so many factors here and so many possibilities that I simply couldn’t cram it all within this space unless you want to read a Jack Kerouac-esque scroll of thoughts permeating the pages through the pores on my forehead.
If Fletcher wants to shake things up, starting with a post-hype prospect that can hypothetically land you someone more useful for this team’s near future, is one way to do it.